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Thursday, 4 December 2014

Another Point Of View: Mastodon (Review By Paul)

Mastodon – Bristol O2 Academy

The O2 Academy was crammed to the rafters as Mastodon completed the last date of their latest UK tour in support of their latest release Once More Round The Sun.


Opening band Krokodil is hyped in some quarters to be one of the next big things in UK metal. Quite how I'm not sure. An assortment of members from other bands, their very recent release Nachash is one heavy slab of metalcore, although the similarity in their song writing means that the tracks tended to blend into each other. Live they fared little better although in fairness the upper balcony is never going to afford the best sound in this dire venue. Playing a selection of tracks from their debut release, the heaviness of the band’s sound dominated their set, with the bass of James Leach combining with Dan Foord’s drums to provide a huge foundation for the three guitarists, including Radio 1 ‘rock jock’ Daniel P Carter to riff away. Unfortunately those riffs were inaudible in the top part of the venue. Disappointingly, the screeching vocal delivery of frontman Simon Wright was audible and his guttural growling and screaming in general left me cold. I've said before that I'm not even a small fan of this type of band and their sound does absolutely nothing for me. A limited stage presence with restricted movement from the band apart from Wright meant that there was little to observe visually. Whilst many in the O2 appeared to respond favourably to Krokodil’s set, I’d love to know who would actually pay to watch this lot as headliners in a small venue. 5/10

Big Business

Next up were Big Business, a two piece from Los Angeles. Now these guys have been around for a while and both were members of The Melvins for a time, so it should be no surprise that their sound is sludgy yet frantic energy filled rock. As a two piece, much of the effort falls on excellent drummer Coady Willis who moves around his kit like an octopus. Bassist and vocalist Jared Warran completes the line-up and his dry wit was received warmly by the by now absolutely crammed in audience. However, once again, they were limited visually and I found my attention wandering at various parts of their set. Yes they are competent and make a demon sound and Warran's humour is very endearing, but once again they just weren't my cup of tea. 6/10


Once More ‘Round The Sun was released earlier this year and was another solid album. Not as instantly catching as some of the tracks on The Hunter, and certainly not as progressive as Crack The Skye, it still contains a wealth of decent tunes. Mastodon treated us to eight tracks from their latest release in a 90 minute set which kicked off in rip roaring style with Tread Lightly and Once More ‘Round The Sun as they signalled their intent. As the set developed, it was interesting to observe the change in dynamics within the band. Drummer Brann Dailor has come much more to the fore, delivering powerful clean vocals on several of the tracks. This compared to the less distinguishable drawl of Brent Hinds, who also appeared to have one of the quieter microphones for his vocal performance. Dailor is also one mighty fine drummer and his rolls and fills were quite impressive from our vantage point high in the venue. A storming Oblivion, one of two tracks from Crack The Skye received one of the biggest ovations of the evening whilst some of the newer stuff, Chimes At Midnight for example, unsurprisingly garnered a slightly less enthusiastic response.

As the show progressed it was evident that the change in the way the band are now composing has allowed bassist and main vocalist Troy Sanders to deliver a much more measured and developed vocal performance. Both Hinds and other guitarist Bill Kelliher delivered killer guitar throughout the evening, with old tracks Aqua Dementia and Ole' Nessie crushing all around. After a further two new tracks, Divinations encouraged the crowd to get even more involved before a brutally heavy Bladecatcher ripped the place apart. Sometimes you forget just how heavy this band is. As Black Tongue got the crowd singing, the first real shock of the evening hit like a hammer as Troy Sanders not only spoke to the crowd but then introduced Ember City, the last track to be played from the latest release. A triple whammy to conclude the evening was then unleashed with the powerful Megalodon, Crystal Skull and finally Blood And Thunder exhausting both the band and audience. There was also the rare sight and sound of Kelliher filling in on backing vocals for this final track of the evening. As we slopped out of the arena, Brann Dailor’s rather long “chat” continued to ring in our ears; both unexpected and interesting with a promise about a return to the UK festival circuit revealed. The rest of the band had already made a hasty exit as Dailor flapped his gums for about five minutes. Watch out for the Download announcement. Overall, a solid if unspectacular evening with the excellence of Mastodon compensating for the awfulness of the first two. 8/10

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